2G Spectrum must be auctioned by 31 August: Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: Rejecting the government‘s appeal that it be given 400 days to conduct fresh 2G auctions, the Supreme Court has now fixed a deadline for the auction process from 2 June to 31 August.

The court had on2 February this year ordered 122 permits granted to eight operators in 2008 when A Raja was the Telecom Minister be revoked in early June and asked the government to redistribute radio airwaves through an open bidding process.

A bench of Justices G S Singvhi and K S Radhakrishnan also said today that existing licences can operate till 7 September 2012.

The Centre had argued through Attorney General G E Vahanvati that the government needed 400 days to conduct fresh auctions and that the time given by the apex court was too short.

Vahanvati said the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had come out with its recommendations on 2G spectrum prices only yesterday. ‘‘Trai‘s recommendations will have an impact on the auction process,‘‘ he told the court.

But the judges said the government could certainly take more time but this entire exercise could have been avoided if an effort was made by ‘‘your officers‘‘ earlier. When the 2G licences were allotted, the Department of Telecom officials knew the value of the spectrum, the court said, but it was still allotted at a low price in 2008. ?We are still not able to understand and believe that the officers of India are so na?ve that they do not understand the price difference?, the court said.

Private telcos were also warned against filing petitions questioning its 2 February verdict. The bench said it would impose exemplary costs if they continued to do so as it was wastage of precious public time and money.

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